Join the Learning Disability Register today
Even before COVID, people with a learning disability were already twice as likely to die avoidably and died far younger than the general population. And during the pandemic many people have faced serious obstacles to accessing healthcare, with a Mencap report published in December 2020 showing the serious barriers to healthcare faced by people with a learning disability.
Data from NHS England
Data from NHS England – released last month – has once again highlighted the very large numbers of people with a learning disability missing from the GP Learning Disability Register, with a lack of awareness being one of the main issues. Previous estimates have shown only 250,000 people with a learning disability are on the Learning Disability Register and this latest data indicates little improvement.
The register (England only) provides the GP with a list of people who have a learning disability. If someone is on the register it makes it easier to liaise with healthcare professionals who should recognise people’s individual needs and help them get access to the services and support they need in a timely way. It also entitles people to annual health checks which we know are key to tackling some of the health inequalities people with a learning disability face, with the most recent LeDeR report showing that people who had not had an annual health check in the previous year were 1.5 times more likely to die (18-49 years old). The GP learning disability register in England was also used as a tool in the prioritisation for the COVID vaccine, and entitles people to a flu jab.
Additionally, the recent NHS data also showed a significantly smaller proportion of women with a learning disability had a breast cancer screening test compared to other patients. And more widely LeDeR data suggests men with a learning disability die 23 years younger than men in the general population but for women this is 27 years (LeDeR, 2021). There are also significantly more men on the learning disability register than there are women, meaning women with a learning disability are potentially even less likely to get the support they need.
Health inequalities facing people with a learning disability from B.A.M.E groups
The NHS data doesn’t include any information about ethnicity - but we already know data about the experience of people with a learning disability from B.A.M.E groups is very poor, and cannot tell us much beyond the fact that there are many people from B.A.M.E communities missing from the Learning Disability Register. Yet a report from the Race Equality Foundation has highlighted just how serious the healthcare inequalities are – and how much they’re exacerbated for people with a learning disability from B.A.M.E groups, with the COVID pandemic having shown just how serious the situation is. Throughout the pandemic, people from B.A.M.E communities have died disproportionately as have people with a learning disability, with the Race Equality Foundation’s report pointing out people with a learning disability were six times more likely to die from COVID - and 40% of these deaths were people from Black and Pakistani communities.